This is a submission from our Leaders 4SC Seminars Program

Despite concerns of expense, local governments should construct more public transport. It helps social mobility, helps the local economy and it reduces pollution. Public transport is a form of transport which can be used by a member of the public. Public transport includes: Buses, Light rail, Subways, Commuter trains, Streetcars and trolleys, Cable cars, Van pool services, Ferries and water taxis, Paratransit services for senior citizens and people with disabilities, Monorails and tramways. While subsidies are typical, the medium- and longer-term economic activity public transport supports produce returns in the form of real estate, payroll, business and sales taxes.  It can be in one city or span a country. Here is why I believe local governments should invest in public transport.

Public transport reduces pollution. For example, in 2019 the Washington metro saved 300,000 metric tonnes of CO2 by reducing gasoline consumption by 40 million gallons (1.5% of DC metro area consumption. This is a reduction in CO2 for the Washington metro area while still providing cheap transport that beats traffic. This means that in cities that the government constructs more public transport, have cleaner air and the city’s residents will lead healthier, longer lives.

Public transport increases social mobility. In a 2003 study “Making the Connections: Final Report on Transport and Social Exclusion” lack of personal transport or poor public transport was a barrier for two out of five jobseekers in getting a job, and transport costs were a problem for one in four jobseekers getting to a job interview.  The poorest in society can less afford transport costs, which means that they would be stuck without the opportunity to better their lives ultimately, reducing social mobility.

Public transport helps the economy. For every $1 billion in. investments in the sector, 50,000 jobs are created and supported and every $10 million in operating investment yields $32 million in increased business sales. An estimated $39 billions of public transit expenditures flow into the private sector. When economic returns for a city are this substantial and local businesses benefit this much, surely it is in the interest of everyone that more public transport is provided in every city in America? This means that if local governments invested in public transport, they would see an increase in jobs, prosperity and the overall state of the city.

Public transport is safer than cars. You can reduce your chance of being in a vehicle-related accident by more than 90% by taking public transit as opposed to commuting by car. 36,120 people die by car accidents every year. Shouldn’t we give people the opportunity to travel safely?

Public transport saves money for residents. In 2017, transportation costs made up the fourth largest expenditure among American households which spent an average of $9,737 each on transportation costs. However, if they took metro, they could save $5597 every year (the price of a subway ticket in Boston is $2.40*345 days of work a year*2 trips a day*2.5 average amount of people in each American household). Allowing households to keep a large portion of the income will mean that they will have more savings or be able to spend it, growing the local economy. This is obviously a benefit to a city.

Some people say that in the US because of lower density in cities public transport cannot work. While it is true that US cities have significantly higher amounts of suburban sprawl and lower amounts of high rises that does not mean that public transport cannot work. Take Austin, TX for example, it has a density of 1,181.35/km2 compared to a European city like berlin with a density of 4,227 inhabitants per km² yet in the year ending September 2020 it had a public transport rider ship of 22 million in a city of only 978,908. This shows that that even in cities with low density public transit is still in high demand and is needed.

In conclusion, the pros of public transport significantly outweigh the negatives. Whether it be because of social mobility, the economy, safety, pollution or reducing household expenses, cities that have large public transit systems will prosper and become richer than cities without. That is why local governments should invest in public transport.

Written by Leaders 4SC Student George M